We need to talk about menstruation. Period
Research suggests the stigma around talking outright about periods is likely inhibiting thousands of women and young girls across Australia from attending their schools and workplaces.
It’s an issue that local Dean Tavener and his wife, Nina, have thrown themselves headfirst into combatting, following a stark realisation by Nina at a business conference in 2019.
After the attendees were asked, ‘How many of you have been caught out by your period at work?’ Nina was astounded to see every woman present raise her hand.
“I thought it was just me having had this problem. It is not, and that’s not okay,” says Nina.
This moment was the impetus for her and Dean to launch Pixii, a social enterprise providing plastic-free, environmentally friendly pads and tampons to bathrooms in workplaces, schools, offices, cafés, bars, and shopping centres.
“Because it’s [menstruation] not spoken about openly, for a lot of people providing basic hygiene supplies for students or staff is just not something they’ve considered before,” Dean explains.
“It’s important as, for example, when New York City schools started providing period products, they immediately saw a 3.4 per cent increase in attendance. Girls were going to school more just by providing these accessible products.”
With Australia in the midst of recession, Dean says there is an increased risk that period poverty, or the inability to afford hygiene products, could see vulnerable Australian women and girls forced to stay home from work or school.
“If income goes down, then obviously affording everything, including period products, becomes harder,” he tells Peninsula Living.
“Most people assume it only impacts developing nations, but it affects 137,00 students a year in the UK alone. In New Zealand, an estimated 8 per cent of girls have skipped school due to period poverty.
“A survey of 800 Sydney schoolgirls last year had more than 83 per cent tell us their schools don’t offer anything in terms of free period products.
“If we take that issue of the table, then girls at school and women at work do not have to leave to go and get period products or stay home out of fear or embarrassment over their period.”
While the first step is getting these free products into schools and workplaces, he says it is also important that institutions continue to have conversations with their staff or students to break down the stigma around menstruation.
“There’s definitely a social barrier in the way as well. It’s not just a financial issue,” Dean says.
“I’ve come across people who have certainly found it quite strange to speak about this at all with a guy, and I’m sure there are people that find it weird to talk about at all, with anyone.
“Just having these things available doesn’t end the stigma impacting the girls and women going through it.
“So, it’s definitely a conversation that should happen, particularly in schools, alongside providing the resources to deal with menstruation as it comes up.”
The company’s focus on empowering girls to stay in school throughout menstruation also extends globally, with Dean and Nina choosing to donate 50 per cent of Pixii’s profits to One Girl.
The charity provides menstrual hygiene education and opportunities to girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda, including the chance to start their own self-sustaining businesses.
“We believe if we don’t start dealing with basic hygiene needs out in the open and get these products where they need to be, it’s going to be really difficult to achieve some basic gender equality,” Dean concludes.
To learn more or have Pixii provide period products to your school or workplace, visit pixii.com.au.